Undoubtedly, an injury is a setback for a runner (or any athlete for that matter). Or is it? I think the hardest thing about an injury is the timing. It never fails – the injury shows up when you have a solid goal in mind. Am I right? Rest days had been turning into run days, a night out with friends turns into an 8pm bedtime to be ready for the next long run. Your calendar is meticulous with workout paces and notes. Snap. It happens. Whatever it is. For me, it was an avulsion fracture. For you it may have been severe shin splits, a stress fracture, hip issues, a dislocated knee, major knots, an accident, severe illness, or something else. Whatever it is, it is miserable both mentally and physically. If you’re like me, you may even deny the fact something is wrong for a day or two. You’ll try again to run on it even if you know you shouldn’t. Why - because maybe, just maybe it will feel better. You may even feel mentally weak for not being able to push through the pain. Deep down, you have a feeling something is wrong, but you’re not ready to admit it. You’re not ready to admit the fact you know your training has been derailed and that you’re scared about what comes next.
Then it clicks – this injury isn’t going away with a couple days off and some ice. In fact, it’s not even going away with a couple weeks. Nope. Even though the doctor said “give it a couple weeks” you know deep down two means about eight. Of course your spouse and training partners have been telling you this, but you’re in denial. I know I’m not the only one who operates this way.
So how am I supposed to go about making the best of this time off? Not only am I in pain, but I cannot do what I enjoy. I cannot run – heck I can barely walk. It hurts when I walk, sit, lay, stand – it hurts to do anything. How frustrating. I guess I can catch up on all the recorded stuff on my DVR? But that’s not really what I want to do. I want to run.
If you’re like me and you feel as though you take good care of yourself (minus the occasional donut or four), it becomes even more frustrating. For me, I felt like I was in line to take on a physically demanding and challenging goal and then Coach Life said “Joy, you’re out” and pulled me out of the game for a while. Mentally, that’s challenging. Why now? What the heck am I supposed to be learning from this? Patience? Humility? Both? Maybe it’s a way of saying slow down. You’re not ready yet. Maybe something better is coming. Maybe there’s a lesson to learn or my body needs a break. Maybe I won’t know what the lesson is until a year from now. Perhaps it’s a reality check. Maybe it’s the fact I’m no longer 20 years old. Maybe it’s life telling me that my focus was in the wrong place and that I need to re-focus and re-prioritize. I could go on and on (and I bet you could too).
But, I realized the longer I beat myself up about it, the longer I was going to be out both physically and mentally. I tried to shift my focus into healing mode. What cross training could I do? How could I maintain some level of fitness? How could I incorporate more basic activity into my daily routine until I was able to run again? How could I be ready to begin easing back into training when those 6-8 weeks were up? Easing into training wasn’t quite as easy as I thought. Despite my time on the bike (I should add that I really dislike biking), I was riding the struggle bus pretty hard. But hey, a mile (or a half mile) at a time is something, right? Maybe it was the fact I was not in as good of shape as I hoped. Maybe it was because I was scared to re-injure myself. Maybe both. I was quickly frustrated by the fact my miles were no longer at 7:15-7:30 pace, but were closer to 8:30 pace. Then I told myself I needed to chill out. Stop it. Seriously. Just let it be, and let your body do what it needs to do to get back on track. As the injury heals, I could begin to work on speed, but it would be ludicrous to attempt to do too much at once. The point is to get better, not to re-injure myself again and end up back in that stupid boot. I think the key here is not to be in a hurry. It’s so easy to be driven by the “I want it now” mindset, but with an injury, it will take time. I’m still learning this. By “time” I don’t mean a week or even a month. Sometimes it can be a very long process. That’s something hard for me to grasp.
Do you ever take for granted the fact you are able to run? I know I do. A few weeks ago I met a little boy who was able to walk for the first time. Yes. He had been in a wheelchair his whole life and was finally able to walk. The smile on his face almost made me cry (and I don’t do that very often). He explained to me what it felt like to finally be able to walk. So here I am moping about the fact I have a fracture in my foot (that is almost healed now), and I’m not in the best shape, and I want to be faster and blah blah blah. This kid was beaming from ear to ear because he could walk. Did you catch that?
How easy is it for us to get so wrapped up in our own issues that we forget how fortunate we are? My fracture is almost healed and I’m back to 8 miles or so. So maybe it’s not at the speed I want yet, but at least I can run. I have decided to make the choice to celebrate the fact I am able to run. I want to celebrate nature, the outdoors, the freedom that running brings – I’m choosing to celebrate every step. Why not look at it this way? A healthy body is a gift and I am grateful for that! You know how sometimes we let one little bad thing ruin the whole day? Essentially, it’s the same thing. I’m not going to allow a little injury to ruin my running journey. Yes, that fracture is a flat tire on the way to work, or hot coffee spilled all over a new shirt, but guess what – it’s just a tiny thing that will later be a blip on the radar if I chose to make the best of it. If I choose to allow it to “ruin my day” and let it force me to give up on my goals, it will become the focus of my energy. It will not be a blip on the radar, but rather an all-consuming force that drives my mindset. I’m not going to allow that and I hope you don’t either.
I know it can be frustrating to deal with an injury especially when you have dreams and goals ahead. But remember that injuries of all kinds (physical, mental, emotional) are part of playing the game. They’re part of the sport, and they’re part of life. Quite frankly, being knocked down is part of life. That doesn’t make it easier though. Even if you eat well and take care of yourself, things will not always go smoothly. It’s so easy to feel down about your situation. I know. It recently happened to me. But let’s think long term. Focus on recovery, not on your current state of frustration. Remember that you still have goals, and that in order to reach them, your body must be healthy. So, work to keep your mind positive. I’m a firm believer that a positive mind is imperative to healing in a timely manner. So get your mind in the right place, and do what you can to heal your body. Cross train, clean up your diet, get adequate sleep, and stay positive. In the meantime, use your downtime from running to do something else you enjoy. Maybe it means more family time. Maybe it gives you time to read that book you wanted. Perhaps you’re able to try some new recipes in the kitchen, or have the garden you didn’t have time for. I have found that sometimes the time we gain during an injury allows us to take a step back and re-organize our time and priorities. That’s not always a bad thing.
Here’s the last thing I have to say. For me, an injury is a test. It’s a pause in training – an obstacle or hurdle to overcome if you will. It doesn’t mean failure and it doesn’t mean defeat. It’s a chance to heal your body and mind. It’s a chance to come out stronger, faster, and smarter on the other side. So here’s my advice. Work hard and be patient both in your training and in life. You’re going to be hurt whether it be in your career, personal, or athletic life – that’s a given. Learn from your injuries and realize that you cannot control everything. Don’t forget your injury as it taught you a lesson of some kind – a lesson you probably needed. If you are able to find a path with no obstacles, it likely doesn’t lead to anywhere worth going. Keep your head in the game and remember what Buddy Buie said, “A dead end street is just a place to turn around.”
Better. Faster. Stronger. Smarter.
Albert Einstein once said "the measure of intelligence is the ability to change."
George Eliot once said "It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view."
Think about the way you approach your training. Are you open to trying new things, or do you believe one way is the best way? Think about why you think the way you do.
As as our bodies age and change, our training may need to change as well. Perhaps a severe injury occurred that doesn't allow us to train in the same way. Maybe it means a new brand of shoes. Maybe it means compression sleeves. Maybe it means backing off mileage or hitting the trails instead of pavement. Keeping an open mind and allowing your training to evolve can keep you on the roads and trails for years to come. It can also keep you from becoming stagnant in your fitness journey.
At some point, we begin to realize our bodies are not 18 years old anymore. Our metabolism begins to slow, and things begin to hurt a little more. But that doesn't mean we cannot get faster and stronger. It just means we can't eat 3 large pizzas and drink a 6 pack every night before we train.
Recently, an athlete shared something with us that was very interesting. This particular person is a triathlete, runner, and all around very fit. She's in her mid 50s. She said "If I want my body to operate like I'm in my 20s, I have to make changes to keep it running well. I have to eat incredibly clean and take care of myself." The reason she is so successful is because as she has aged she has changed her training and life habits to match her goals. Her mind has stayed open and she has done what is necessary even if she may have been skeptical at first.
So here's the deal. Why do we close our minds to learning new things? Do we think we have already discovered the best way? Is it an idea we have in our head? A stereotype? Let's see.
Here's an example. Nick has been struggling with severe knots in his calves for a while now. He has upped his water and magnesium intake and has been seeing a masseuse to help work out the knots. At one point it was suggested he wear calf sleeves to help with the knots. Nick says at one point in his life he would have laughed at this and said "no way" - but he's chosen to keep an open mind and try it. Guess what? It's helping.
10 (or even 5) years ago Nick may have scoffed at this idea. But he chose to do what he needed to reach his goals. It may seem trivial, but making that small change has allowed him to run daily with much less discomfort.
The same goes for training plans and workouts. How many of you were skeptical at first that speed work could work for you? Now what do you think?
Sometimes we see a workout and think, "that won't work for me" so we modify or change it. Why? It's one thing if there's a legitimate reason such as an injury, but if we change that workout because we are scared of it or think we cannot complete it, what's the point? Where is the growth?
Sometimes we begin to feel entitled. The feeling of "well I should be able to do that workout" or "who is going to run this with me today" or "I need you to rewrite the paces because I can't do that" or "I'm not going to do that race if I can't place or win" or even "I'm too fast for that workout. Why bother" - here's the deal. Get over yourself. Seriously. You are not entitled to anything when it comes to fitness. When you start to believe you deserve it and you're that great, you'll begin to fail. Trust us.
Think about sports that believe their way is the only way. Are those athletes truly as fit as they believe? Nope. We don't believe you want to be that way. So forget the arrogance and preconceived notions. Take care of yourself, work toward your goals, train accordingly, and don't believe you're better than anyone else. Continue to learn and work hard. Stay humble and keep your mind open. The more you're able to learn, the more efficient you become. The more efficient you become, the more streamlined and effective your training will be.
So if you tend to have a closed mind when it comes to your training, think about why. Is it entitlement? Is your way the best way? Is it because that's how you've always done it? Maybe it's because you're scared to try anything new. Maybe someone is telling you you cannot do it so don't bother. Whatever it is, start opening your mind. Come on out of that shell and explore what the training world has to offer to you.
"It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth." - Kundera
See you on Tueaday. #thefitclub417
Those of you who have been running for a while have likely experienced runger. Yes, runger. You're running 50+ miles a week with speed work, long runs, and cross training and you just want to eat all the food. You want to eat the queso, the pizza, the whole bowl of salad, all the brownies, three smoothies, a couple smoked salmon, 6 clamshells of strawberries, 4 sushi rolls, and the entire aisle of bread. You can out eat your friends who watch in amazement as you demolish that burger. But runger can make weight loss and plain old weight maintenance difficult. So the key is to focus on what you eat and maintain a balance. Make sure you're feeding your body wholesome, clean food and that you're not overeating.
It seems like everyone has their overnight online nutritional coaching certificate anymore. So, be smart about who you trust and what "diet" fads you buy into. Learn the effects it will have on your body long term instead of focusing on short term results. Remember that "lose 5 lbs in a week" can translate into "lose 5lbs in a week (results not typical) and put 15lbs on the next." Be smart and savvy, and remember your overall health is what is important. Know that fad dieting and poor nutrition in the hopes of a short term fix can lead to many health problems down the road. Kill the short-sightedness and focus on what your body needs. Not everyone is going to be a size 00. That doesn't need to be your goal. Focus on staying healthy and fit. If you are searching for a nutritional coach to help you reach your personal goals, look for someone who has a true education, background, and experience in nutrition. Make sure they have your best interests at heart versus the best interests of their company.
There's no doubt that runners are some of the most outstanding athletes around. The dedication that goes into true running success is certainly not minimal. So, do what you can to make sure you have the most successful career possible.
That being said, we aren't claiming to be the worlds greatest nutritionists. We're just here to talk about the basics of what runners really need. So in general, what do runners need? You should begin to focus on the nutritional value of your food. Yes, Doritos, Twinkies, or Lucky Charms may fill you up and satisfy your hunger for a bit, but what's in them? Lots of dye, sugar, and other ingredients that are damaging to your health. So start here. Take note of what you're putting into your body and see where your weaknesses are. Write it down if you need to. Look at an entire week of what you're eating. See any trends or similarities? While you're doing this, look at your portion size. How much are you eating? How often? Are you eating because you're hungry or because you're bored? Are you eating because it's 6:30pm and time for dinner? What causes you to overeat? To skip meals? Learn about yourself. Then see where you need to make changes.
Now, begin focusing on nutrient dense foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat - you get the picture. For example, a quinoa and avacado dish will fill you up more than a cheesy burrito and will leave you feeling better as well. Think about it. If you start your day with egg whites, fruit, and turkey bacon, you'll feel better later in the day versus starting your day with Pop Tarts and a soda. It just makes sense. Yes, the cheesy burrito is quick and easy to access, we get that. But, with some planning you can have healthy options ready for you anytime as well.
Here are a couple tips:
1. See if you can shop online for your groceries. This may help you eliminate the "Ooh. That looks good. I'll grab that package of cookies" element you're struggling with. You can just input your list, and skip the extra items. Plus, your groceries are ready for you when you arrive or can be delivered. It saves time and money.
2. Try meal prepping. If you have healthy meals ready to go, you're less likely to hit the drive-thru. Plus, you've already spent the money on the food and prep for the healthy meals, so don't waste them.
3. Have fruits and veggies on the counter (assuming they don't need to be refrigerated) - hopefully you'll see them and grab those instead of heading for the chips in the pantry
4. Try an online delivery service if you struggle with clean eating and cooking. There are companies that deliver fresh ingredients/meals to your doorstep. Just whip up the meal provided and enjoy a healthy dinner. This is a great option to help you get started. Once you learn the basics and try a few recipes, you may no longer need the service.
5. Maybe you like smoothies but struggle with the combos or time to make them. Try Daily Harvest and choose from different flexible delivery plans and options that provide you with fresh (many are organic) ingredients. Just add your liquid base, blend, and pour back into the cup. Out the door in no time! https://daily-harvest.com/?ref=10608
6. If you like to cook (or if you love Shalane Flanagan) check out Run Fast Eat Slow for some great recipes for runners. http://www.runfasteatslow.com/#home
7. Gather your friends and teammates and cook together. Try new healthy recipes to take home to your families and bond as a team at the same time. Plus if you don't like it, you're not stuck with all the leftovers.
8. When someone says "where are we going to eat tonight" don't say "wherever you want." Step up and pick a healthy restaurant. Even if they complain now, your friends will thank you later.
9. Pack healthy snacks and drinks for work. Fruit, nuts, water, etc. This will help keep you away from the vending machine at 3pm. Take walk breaks during the day as well. This will help keep your mind active which can help curb the craving for those "bad" snacks.
10. Like to be outdoors? Grow a few things! Even if it's simply some herbs in the window, cooking with fresh ingredients that YOU grow is a fun treat. Maybe you don't have a green thumb? Hit up the local farmer's market and support your local friends and neighbors. Plus, some locations offer samples and cooking classes.
Moving on. Watch what you drink. Your body needs calories from pure and clean food. Sports drinks and many coffee drinks contain a lot of sugar. Plus, many specialty coffee drinks contain more than 400 calories. Why waste these calories clogging your body with excess sugar when you could use this chance to eat well? Remember, coffee does have health benefits - just be mindful about how you fix it. Sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, heart issues, poor oral health, and a myriad of other issues. We doubt that's what you're after.
Watch your alcohol consumption as well. The sugar and calories in these drinks can also be sky high. Now - we believe in moderation so we aren't telling you to ditch the booze all together. Just remember how many calories you could be consuming when you're reaching for margarita or piña coloda number 3.
How about juicing? Juicing is a wonderful thing - but don't use it as a meal replacement and please skip the "cleanses". Use juicing as a supplement and way to get additional clean nutrients. Juicing can also be a great way to cover up a veggie taste you don't like.
Don't forget to drink your water. You already know how important this is.
Protein. Eat it. With every meal. Try lean meats, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Protein helps keep you full and also helps with iron levels. Protein assists in the regulation and maintenance of the body and plays a role in fluid balance, blood clotting, hormone and enzyme production, and cell repair. So, the previous sentence alone should be enough to let you see why protein is crucial to your diet, especially during heavy training periods. Remember, you're an endurance athlete not just an average joe hitting a class at the gym once a week so you will need more protein. Protein likely isn't the magic pill for success as increased supplementation has not been found to automatically improve performance—however if your protein intake is low, you will probably start to lose muscle mass, become rundown, notice a drop in performance (speed work and long runs will become more difficult) and increase your risk of injury. Runner's World suggests you can prevent much of the above by shooting for an intake of at least 0.55-0.77 grams/lb. (aim for the upper end of the spectrum during times of full on training and racing). So if you weigh 130 pounds, you’ll want to aim for approximately 72-100 grams of protein a day. If you weigh 195 pounds, you would need to aim for approximately 107-123 grams/day.
Do NOT avoid carbohydrates especially when training hard. Your body stores cabs as glycogen and your body taps into this storage for fuel during workouts, especially races and long runs. Carbs are the best form of energy for working muscles. Of course your body can use fat and protein for energy when necessary, but the energy in these nutrients is not as easily accessible as the carbohydrate fuel. Non-carb fuel does not give you the muscle strength or endurance that glycogen will. If you have ever hit the wall during a race or workout, you know what it is like to feel carb depleted. We think you'll agree it's not a good feeling.
So where do you find healthy carbs? In general, try getting your carb fuel from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and whole grain pasta. You need to be looking for whole food sources, not carb-filled junk foods. Think about it - the reason that carbs have gotten such a bad reputation is that when people think of carbs they're thinking of donuts, cake, pastries, etc all of which generally come with a substantial amount of fat, sugar, and calories. Whole foods will contain quality complex carbs and, if prepared properly, are usually lower in calories. Whole carb foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and other food compounds that help avoid injury and chronic disease. Remember - think long term.
Don't forget that your carbs should be spread out over the day. The best time to refuel from a workout is within the first 30 minutes after a workout with a ratio of 4g carb:1g protein. Interestingly, one of the best refueling foods out there is low-fat chocolate milk which also contains a good dose of calcium to help those bones!
Just a reminder - when you refuel, make sure you're not eating junk just to fill up (no sugary cereal, pop-tarts, candy etc). The food you use to refuel is the food your body is using to replenish. Make it good.
So - let's run through this again. Watch what you eat and learn your habits. Make sure you're focused on long term success and not a fad diet. If you have a nutritional coach, make sure they're solid, experienced, and well educated. Don't drink your calories. Watch your sugar intake. Eat protein. Eat good fat. Don't ditch the carbs. Don't eat junk. Hydrate properly. Take care of your body and it will thank you on race day and for many years to come.
We won't meet Tuesday, but don't forget your pace run. Enjoy the long weekend.
Who Picks the Topics?
Each week, we notice different things. We try to incorporate the questions we are receiving or the training issues we are noticing into our post(s) for the week. If there is something you'd like us to cover, let us know!